The Game: Players get behind the wheel of a roaring race car, viewed from overhead, as it navigates a series of roads and occasional tunnels whose width varies dramatically. Tunnels are illuminated only by headlights, which means that collisions with other cars are, if not certain, then at least much more likely. Any collision results in the player’s car having to get into traffic again from a dead standstill at the side of the road. (Sega, 1979)
Memories: Monaco GP looks like just about any other overhead racing game, though it certainly upped the ante in terms of color. Its interesting take on the concept of “road widening” also made it uniquely frustrating and amusing at the same time. But as similar as it may seem to rest of the overhead-view racing games of its day, Monaco GP does hold one distinction in video game history.
As the 1970s came to a close and the ’80s opened, Monaco GP marked the end of game built on the back of “discrete logic” – multiple circuit boards with purely analog logic gates as opposed to an actual centeral processor. This gained more significance in hindsight with the rise of the hobby/industry of emulation: with no chips to be dumped and emulated, Monaco GP cannot be emulated, only simulated.
It’s not as if the arcade world suddenly went to integrated circuits the day after Monaco GP hit the streets; chip-based games had been around for years, starting with Midway‘s Gun Fight (itself a chip-based copy of a Taito game). Gradually, discrete logic games (along the lines of early Atari titles like Pong and Rebound) fell by the wayside. The same year that Gun Fight appeared, home video games also made the transition: Magnavox‘s Odyssey was the only discrete logic video game console, supplanted by the chip-based home version of Pong from Atari. Any games still using discrete logic by 1979 were few and far between. Printed circuit boards peppered with microchips were easier to mass-produce, maintain and repair then several disparate circuit boards connected by a tangle of wiring. Monaco GP was the last of its kind.